UN BODY CALLS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND BILL OF RIGHTS
June 28, 2016
The UK government was reviewed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva on the 15 and 16 June 2016 in relation to their compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which the UK is a voluntary signatory.
Yesterday the Committee raised a number of concerns in relation to human rights protection in the UK which have a particular resonance given the uncertain future of the UK after the EU referendum last Thursday.
On the proposed replacement of the Human Rights Act, a key component of the human rights protections provided in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Committee noted concerns that such a measure may lower human rights standards and recommended, “the State party take all necessary measures to ensure that any new legislation in this regard is aimed at enhancing the status of human rights.”
The Committee recognised the importance of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in assuring the future of human rights protections in this region of the UK, they expressed their regret that it had not yet been adopted and urged, “the State party to take all necessary measures to expedite the adoption of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.”
The Committee repeatedly raised its concern that the devolved administration in Northern Ireland was not present for the review and noted that it, “regrets the absence of representatives of the government of Northern Ireland did not enable it to have a full assessment of the enjoyment of Covenant rights in Northern Ireland.”
Following these recommendations, Human Rights Consortium spokesperson, Helen Flynn, stated,
“The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has made strong recommendations which are even more important at a tumultuous time for the constitutional settlement in Northern Ireland.
Human rights are a key confidence-building measure in our peace. The Human Rights Act forms a core element of the Northern Ireland peace settlement and should not be amended, repealed or replaced.
Through the Human Rights Act and a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland we can help bring certainty to people’s lives so that, whatever our constitutional future, their rights protected and respected.
We share the Committee’s disappointment that Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK not to send representatives to review. Our mission now as an NGO is to work with both the UK and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that these recommendations are implemented, as the Committee advised.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The Human Rights Consortium is Northern Ireland based NGO with over 160 member groups drawn from all communities and backgrounds across Northern Ireland.
- The purpose of the Consortium is to work towards a human rights based society with a strong and inclusive Bill of Rights at its core.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted and opened for signature at the UN in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. ICESCR was ratified by the UK government in 1976.
- The Covenant protects rights such as the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living, the rights to social security and the rights to work among others.
- The UK performance under the Covenant is reviewed every five years by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further information on the Committee and its work can be accessed at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CESCR/Pages/CESCRIndex.aspx
- ‘Concluding Observations’ highlight concerns the Committee has about protection of rights in the UK and provides recommendations for how the UK can improve human rights compliance. The Concluding Observations for this session can be accessed
- The Consortium can be contacted on 02890 313780 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- NGOs present at the review live-tweeted proceedings using#CESCR
- The Human Rights Consortium submission to the review can be accessed here